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Oklahoma politicians hope to outlaw gas chamber in animal euthanization

Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, introduced bills that would outlaw using carbon monoxide gas chambers as a form of euthanasia in Oklahoma animal shelters.
by Heather Warlick Published: February 8, 2014

Two state legislators are co-authoring bills to abolish the use of carbon monoxide to euthanize animals in Oklahoma.

Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, coincidentally introduced similar bills recently and agreed to serve as co-authors on each others' bills.

“It really is inhumane from what I understand,” Holt said. “It's a slow, painful and terrifying way to die for the animals and there are other options.”

The use of carbon monoxide in euthanasia has been outlawed by 19 states, according to Several city shelters in Oklahoma still have gas chambers and a few still use them, Holt said.

“To the best of our knowledge, Cushing, Poteau, Broken Arrow, Sayre and Clinton still use gas,” said Cynthia Armstrong, Humane Society of the United States Oklahoma state director, in a statement to Holt. The Broken Arrow director of animal control said the city plans to dispose of its gas chamber.

“Sayre officials say they only use their chamber to kill skunks. Clinton officials say they hope to change from gas chamber practices within the next few months. We have offered grant funds to any shelter wishing to transition away from gas. I visited with Shawnee officials about a week ago and they seem amenable to considering making the change,” Armstrong said.

Animal control officials in Cushing and Poteau were not available to discuss their practices.

When Renegar, a veterinarian, first came to McAlester 36 years ago, he toured the city's animal shelter. In the corner of one room, he noticed a large box with a steel door and a pipe sticking out of it. Renegar said he asked the animal control officer about it.

“Well, we put the animals in there, and we back up to it with our pickup truck and hook a hose onto that,” Renegar said the officer told him.

“I hate to use the word suffocation,” Renegar said, “but it's a hypoxia where they start gasping; they can't breathe enough air in to oxygenate their blood.”

Appalled at the practice, Renegar offered to perform euthanasia for McAlester in his veterinary clinic, using a lethal injection of sodium Phenobarbital, an anesthetic he said painlessly and quickly puts the animal “to sleep.” Each year for many years, Renegar said, he euthanized between 1,200 and 1,500 animals in his clinic.

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by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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